Kansas State University


Department of Geography

Graduate Student News

Flatirons outside Golden

Rob Briwa:
The past academic year has been a busy (yet enjoyable) one! I hope to defend my master’s thesis on exploring the literary geographies of Provence by the end of the semester. Besides for thesis research and writing, TA duties, and the general ebb-and-flow of life in Manhattan that seems to make time fly by (delightfully), I’ve been working with the Morse Department of Special Collections at Hale Library on Dr. Stephen Stover’s collection of 35mm slides, which he donated to the archives in 2014. It’s been a rewarding experience, not only because I have been able to see so many beautiful landscapes from around the world, but also because I have been able to interview Dr. Stover nearly every week to be able to talk to him about the slides’ context. I’ve learned a lot from him and had a great deal of fun doing so. Recently, K-State archivist Cliff Hight, Professors Sue and Merrily Stover, and I collaborated on a paper explaining the work being done on the slide series, and we presented it at the inaugural digital humanities symposium at K-State this past February. A final personal highlight of the year for me has been to see the Colorado Rockies for the first time in spring of 2014—painted faintly on the horizon when I first saw them, it was a memorable sight!

Julie Commerford deep-sea fishing near Tampa

Julie Commerford:
Hello! I had an enjoyable and productive 2014. In January I was awarded an NSF GK-12 fellowship for the 2014-2015 academic year. As part of the fellowship, I go to Junction City High School to do experiments with the students and teach them about my research related to grassland biogeography. It’s really enjoyable to see high school students get excited about doing research. In April I presented a poster at the national AAG meeting. In July I visited the Lacustrine Core Facility at the University of Minnesota and also visited Fox Lake, one of my field sites. In the fall I was busy with fieldwork at Konza, coursework, and writing my dissertation proposal.
A personal highlight of the year was catching a shark while doing some deep-sea fishing near Tampa.

I’m looking forward to 2015!

Hayden Colleen Murphey:
Greetings, fellow Wildcats! This past year has been exciting as I started my PhD degree here in August. Working with Dr. John Harrington, my dissertation research will focus on climate change adaptation in rural communities. Thanks to my advisor’s High Plains Regional Geography class in Fall 2014, I saw the High Plains up close in two trips. The first trip, which consisted of a circuit of Nebraska and , allowed me tMurpheyo stand atop Mt. Sunflower. On the second trip that explored even more of the High Plains, I nearly reached the highest point in my home state of Oklahoma and participated with my fellow classmates in the GeoBowl at the SWAAG-GPRM Joint Regional Meeting in Albuquerque, NM. Also in Fall 2014, Dr. McLauchlan’s Paleoenvironmental change course allowed me to learn more about such things as dendrochronology by taking a tree ring core while enjoying the beauty of the Konza Prairie Biological Station up close. I look forward to more adventures, both academic and personal, in 2015.


New Mexico campsite en route to GPRM-SWAAG
New Mexico campsite en route to GPRM-SWAAG

Bill Wetherholt:
A very good day to you fellow Wildcats. I hope this newsletter reaches you all in good spirits. I am happy to report that there is a pinprick of light at the end of the tunnel with respect to my doctoral studies. Data collection from the rural depopulating Great Plains counties of Kansas and Nebraska has been in full swing all semester, and I am looking forward to have something of substance to present at upcoming conferences and colloquia here and abroad. I will be representing the department’s rural tradition this July as one of two graduate students selected to serve on a fifteen-member US delegation (including Lisa Harrington) at the 8th Quadrennial Conference of British, Canadian, and American Rural Geographers in Wales. Closer to home, I helped lead our local chapter of Gamma Theta Upsilon to being awarded the National Chapter Award and asserted my academic prowess by winning the best graduate paper in the first regional AAG joint-meeting of the Southwest and Great Plains—Rocky Mountain geographers. In terms of service, I am the current treasurer for our local chapter of GTU, the student executive member of AAG’s Rural Geography Specialty Group, and the junior student executive of GTU. Needless to say, there are plenty of irons in the fire. Aside from that I’m looking forward to warmer weather and the crack of lightning above the Flint Hills to chase away the doldrums of early March. Barbeques, bass fishing, and a bonfire or two are not that far off on the horizon!


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